Piles of second-hand clothes gather in large bins, an unsorted array of colors, fabrics and brands. At 9:00 a.m., it’s opening time for the thrift store, Joseph Scarlett prepares to enter what he calls, “the trenches.” In competition with those who join him in the land of the donated, he prepares for the search.
Visual elements capture our attention, reflected in the rise of social media. The newest fashion goes from runway to posts. With a simple follow comes a new influence. The mix of trends, cultural and personal influences develops into street style. It’s an authentic daily style shown off to the world.
“I’ve always preached you’re going to tell people who you are with how you dress. If you do exactly replicate what someone is wearing, you’re never yourself,” said Scarlett. His style influences include musicians, such as Travis Scott who wears vintage clothing on the streets, on stage and in music videos. Another influence for Scarlett is designer Virgil Abloh, the current creative director for Louis Vuitton and the founder of Off-White. Abloh is inspired by periods of time in fashion. Those eras tend to influence new designs.
The past several seasons reflect inspiration from several decades. In 1993, Marc Jacobs Grunge collection faced rejection. He reissued the line in 2018. Versace travels back to 1994 with the revival of the safety-pin dress. The 90s capture the attention of designers and the fashion-forward.
“From Goodwill to Grunge” by Jennifer Le Zotte, notes the “grunge” lifestyle started in the mid-80s but rocketed after Nirvana’s album “Nevermind”. The subculture focuses on music and fashion. Those searching for a rebellious, disheveled look found a haven: thrift shops. Thrift shops became the place to find “grunge” clothing.
Another genre shaping the music and fashion scene in the 90s and today is Hip-Hop. The never-ending sportswear trend and the up-and-coming workwear trend of today, often worn by the Wu-Tang Clan, Snoop Dogg and TLC is back. The same street style looks of today, accomplished by the same brands including Tommy Hilfiger, Nike, Adidas, Calvin Klein and Jordan. Back at the “trenches,” Joseph Scarlett’s favorite time period is the late 90s. He loves to find colorful clothing and Nike T-shirts.
Vintage fashion is worthy of the runway. Deja Vaughn, a recent retail fashion graduate, modeled for a fashion show put on by Miracle Hill. The non-profit thrift stores provide funds for homeless shelters around South Carolina. “I can find high-end trends in the thrift store,” says Deja. “I find unique pieces that are for me, anyone can thrift. Take the time to recreate, be creative.”
Taking trends from time-periods and mixing high-end works. Street style photographers capture the looks and outfits are all over social media. Local clothing artist, Estevan Hostos says, “Thrift shops are a melting pot of so many different cultures and time eras. You have a lot more creative freedom.”
According to the online reseller ThredUp, 77 percent of millennials prefer to buy from environmentally-conscious brands. Shopping second-hand supports communities and provides a sustainable approach to fashion.
The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world. Released at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, fashion leaves 92 million tons of waste in landfills each year. “If you go into a thrift store, we went in one today, there are so many clothes. Then we mass produce fashion contributing to waste,” says Vaughn. “We all know that earth is not in the best condition right now.”
Business is booming in the resale and thrift world. According to America’s Research Group, a consumer research firm, around 15 percent of Americans shop at a thrift store or resale shops during a given year. Compare this to the 19 percent of Americans who shop at apparel stores, looking for vintage clothing is on America’s mind. Thredup reports that resale is growing 24 times faster than retail.
Selling second-hand clothing online through websites like Thredup, Poshmark and Depop offer a shopping site to those averse to sorting through clothes and for people who prefer online shopping. Shops even pop-up on Instagram. Joseph Scarlett resales under the username Scarlett Park Vintage. When shopping he looks for the street style trends, “I feel like I have an eye for that. You can find a vintage Champion sweatshirt or a Nike or Adidas T-shirt and everyone will wear that. When I’m out finding stuff I keep a broad angle.”
Vintage is trending and here to stay. From inspiration on the runway to the trendiest street style, the past is part of a fashionable, environmentally-conscious wardrobe. Through a visit to the thrift store or a quick look online, second-hand clothing is waiting.